A Shoalhaven winter is full of activities, particularly since it is whale migration season and the wineries in the area are releasing their latest vintages. And let’s face it, who doesn’t love wine and whales?
There are only a handful of places around Australia that are accredited to swim with whales and Dive Jervis Bay is one of them – in fact; the only one in the Shoalhaven area. Located in Huskisson, they run Scuba Diving and PADI courses alongside their boat trips and are a Sea Shepherd approved dive partner.
Their swim with whales and seals trip encompasses whale and seal watching and then takes it up a notch. They stress the fact that the encounter is up to the whales; their role is to safely get us within 100 metres and in their path to maximise the opportunity to swim with them. Having said that; when I asked how often the whales purposely avoided the groups, they could not think of any occasions.
The trip starts as a normal mid-winter snorkelling trip; you get fitted for a wet suit and snorkelling gear, you head to the pier and climb onto the boat, and then head out of the bay, along the Point Perpendicular cliffs, towards the open sea.
It is hard to describe this experience; I smile when I think about it though.
Jumping in the water without thinking and with zero fear – we are after all in good hands – swimming towards our divemaster and trusting that the whales will approach.
We alternate between dunking our heads in the water and searching for them above as the waves gently rock us from side to side. We have been told that we need to be ‘interesting’ and quiet – something to catch the whales’ eyes without seeming threatening. Ten pairs of legs with flippers closely bunched together should be interesting, right?
Two of the three jumps into the water are a bust. On one occasion the whales decided to steer clear and on the second they swam under the boat which was a good 30m away from us. When they did eventually approach, it was magical. Any fear, apprehension, or worried thoughts anyone may have had, completely disappeared and all you could think of was how spectacular they were. The snorkelling gear provided gives you a feeling of intimacy as the whales swim past below your feet. We estimated that the two whales we saw were about 15 metres below us and that the one closest was a calf from last year’s season, making the trip North to warmer waters.
I can still picture the perfectly shaped tail fin of the humpback whale, gracefully and playfully swimming below us.
If this was not exciting enough, we then head towards the Drum & Drumsticks; a dive and snorkelling site that is home to a permanent fur seal colony. This area is well-known for diving to the locals, with 5 sites to explore, the best-known one is the ‘Lion’s Den’: a huge open underwater cavern within one of the islands.
Unlike the instructions we received to swim with the whales, we are told that we need to be playful, animated, and vocal to ‘entertain’ the seals and tempt them to swim with us. No sooner than we had jumped in the water, the fur seals began zipping past us checking us out. They are fast! Visibility is great in this area; the water is clear and blue, which encourages some of our group to free dive towards the seals who playfully come to meet them halfway.
As we head back towards Huskisson, I can’t help but wonder what it would be like to swim with the whales on their return through these waters as Dive Jervis Bay operates the Swim with whales and seals experience until the end of November.
What you need to know
Dive Jervis Bay operates year-round, with the Swim with Whales and seals experience between June and November. It costs $199 per person and goes for around five hours, with all necessary gear provided and light refreshments are provided on board.
video credit to Cassarn Monroe